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Landfall along the Chesapeake

, 264 pages

3 halftones, 3 line drawings

February 2006



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Landfall along the Chesapeake

In the Wake of Captain John Smith

In 2002, Susan Schmidt retraced John Smith's 1608 voyage on the Chesapeake Bay. In Landfall along the Chesapeake, a cruising guide for Chesapeake boaters and a field log for naturalists, Schmidt compares the beauty of ancestral legacy and childhood memory to her observations on a 100-day voyage in a 22-foot boat.

As she circles the Bay counterclockwise from Jamestown, she explores Smith's encounters with Native Americans and the Bay's ecological changes over the past four hundred years. On each river and creek, she quotes Smith's journals on matching wits with Powhatan, meeting Pocahontas, surviving thunderstorms, ambush, and a stingray's barb. Anchored on wild creeks, Schmidt observes swans and dragonflies, lightning and sunsets; in port she interviews colorful characters and working watermen about blue crabs and oysters.

Scientists explain the Bay's nitrogen overload, water-level rise, anoxia, Pfiesteria, Kepone, and the Ghost Fleet. Native American chiefs discuss their heritage then and now. Ashore, Schmidt walks on her ancestor's farm, now a military chemical dump, and climbs her grandfather's lighthouse. Despite her despair at bad air quality and diminished fisheries, and her dread of high wind and rough seas, Schmidt expresses gratitude for small-town hospitality and the navigation skills her father taught her.

Susan Schmidt, a Virginia native, rows, gardens, and plays music in North Carolina near Cape Lookout and Asheville. A naturalist and poet, she has worked as an English teacher, editor, and policy scientist. A licensed captain, she grew up sailing the Chesapeake Bay, where her family has lived for almost four hundred years.

"A delightful read. Quotations from John Smith's voyage of 1608 are coordinated with events, locations, and the contemporary ecological problems of the Chesapeake in an engaging fashion."

"A stirring chronicle... recommended for sailors, boaters, and anyone wanting to study the mastery of artful nonfiction."

"Weaving history, environmental concerns, and personal memoir, Landfall along the Chesapeake should find a welcome place on many bookshelves."

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